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Blacktip Island Divemaster Discovers New Fish Species

new fish

Blacktip Island marine biologists say a fish photographed by an island divemaster may be a new species of wrasse. (photo courtesy of Barry Peters)

A Blacktip Island scuba guide diving on his day off Wednesday discovered what scientists say is a previously-unknown reef fish species on the Wrasse Hole Wall dive site.

“Marina dared me to go to 150, and when I got there I saw a weird little fish,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm said. “I shined my light on it and the eyes jumped out at me. I was gobsmacked.

“Back on the boat, people said I was narked,” Helm said. “I had a photo to prove it, though. I was going to name it after me, but I owed Dermott money and I like my face as-is, so I named it after him instead.”

The fish, tentatively dubbed Wrassius bottomsis, is probably a relative of the common Caribbean hairy wrasse, marine biologists said.

“We can’t say for certain without collecting a specimen, killing it and cutting it up – and we’re sending a team down tomorrow to do just that – but it appears to be part of the wrasse family,” Tiperon University-Blacktip ichthyology chair Ernesto Mojarra said. “We have to be sure, though. Anything Lee’s involved with is usually full of crap. It does look kind of like Dermott, though I’d never say that to his face.”

Island scuba operations wasted no time promoting the find.

“We’re running packed boats out to Wrasse Hole Wall two, three times a day,” Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Sure, the staff’s got its hands full keeping the guests above 100 feet, but that’s why we pay them minimum wage.

“We’re doing Bottoms Wrasse t-shirts, wrasse hats and Speedos, too,” Skerritt said. “And our own Wrasse Wipe sunscreen. Our bookings are already up in just the last to days.”

Dive professionals worry the discovery may encourage unsafe diving.

“If Lee wants to go that deep and get himself bent on his own time, that’s his business,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Problem is, all our guests want to get down that deep, too, to see his damn fish.

“There’s only so much control a couple of staff can have over 20 divers,” Latner said. “Before, it was like herding cats. Now it’s pure chaos. We snagged three divers at 140 just this morning. Someone’s gonna get hurt, or worse, before this is all over.”

Other residents were less unconcerned.

“Divers go deep all the time. If they’re strong, they’ll survive,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Important thing is that’s my wrasse everybody’s trying to see. My wrasse’s gonna be all over the internet now, you know.”

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Newly-Discovered Flounder May Mean Hurricanes For Blacktip

yodeling flounder

A screen grab from Casey Piper’s underwater video showing the newly-discovered yodeling flounder voicing its cry on Blacktip Island’s Water Pump Reef Wednesday. (photo courtesy of Casey Piper)

A previously-unknown species of flounder, discovered by a Blacktip Island dive guide Wednesday, has scientists intrigued and some locals worried about the discovery’s impact on the coming hurricane season.

“Divers’ve been hearing a weird wailing sound on the reef for weeks, but no one could suss out what it was,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “Then one of our divemasters got lucky. In a fish-life sort of way.”

“I heard a weird oooooo-aaaaaaa-oooooh sound, loud, right behind me, looked back and saw this big-ass flounder, with its mouth open, doing a weird flappy, break-dancey thing,” dive guide Casey Piper said. “It sounded like a slow-motion yodel. Sort of.”

Based on Piper’s video, local scientists determined the fish was a long-rumored species of yodeling flounder.

“You hear fishermen’s’ tales about flounderia yodelicus, but no one’s actually seen one,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra. “They’re the unicorns of the sea. This one seems to change pitch by fluttering its ‘wings’ and waving its top pectoral fin, like playing a theremin. You can hear it from the surface if you’re really quiet.”

Blacktip fishermen, though, say the fish and its yodeling are bad omens.

“Grandpa said that sound was the duppies warning about a bad hurricane season,” Antonio Fletcher said. “If Casey got video of it, well, I guess it’s a duppy fish, then. But storms are still coming.

“Thing is, one year Grandpa was out fishing and heard that moaning. He hooked a big-old flounder and the noise stopped,” Fletcher said. “Fed the family for days. And had no hurricanes that year. That’s no coincidence.”

Some locals see Fletcher’s story as a hint of how to ease storm season.

“Unicorn or not, I say the divers make themselves useful and spear this damn thing so we don’t have any storms,” storekeeper Peachy Bottoms said. “They do it with lionfish. What good’s a marine park if it won’t protect us from hurricanes?”

Blacktip Island Marine Parks officials opposed the suggestion.

“False causality aside, the park is here to protect all marine life,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’re doubling up on patrols and will arrest anyone with a spear anywhere near the park.”

The scientific community backed Schrader.

“If anyone’s going to kill this flounder, it’ll be us, so we can properly study it,” Mojarra said.

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